When I met with Houston ISD recently, it was exciting to reconnect with a U.S. school district that's in a very rapid and aggressive mode of change. Driven by Greg Valdez, the Chief Technology Officer, Greg and his team have not only a vision for technology's impact in Houston, but they are really thinking holistically on the ways in which the district and the learning environment can be improved.
I often talk to school leaders who are driving plans at a district level and cascading them down to principals…as opposed to bringing principals into the conversation early. Greg is doing well at reversing this trend. I met with some leading principals in the district and it was refreshing to see a leader like Greg bring all the constituents together, to be really working very closely with the schools, to be thinking about the leaders and really bringing the principals into the leadership decision-making and the thinking in the school districts early. He is very open and transparent.
To improve education for Houston students, they want to tie education achievement to workforce employability and skills readiness more aggressively…doing more things to get students excited about relevant work experiences, internships, project-based experiences. They want to do a much better job with digital content and eliminate books and use digital textbooks, as well as create and share their digital content. And then they want to empower schools and school leaders, like principals, to drive change, to create the right schools for the right environments, to challenge students and teachers to not accept the status quo, and to be better.
They also recognize there is need for public and private partnerships, so they are reaching out to companies like Microsoft and others to help them with not only guidance and advice but to also help with resources. I’ve blogged before about the importance of these partnerships, and if this is a strategy your school, district, state or country is pursuing, you should definitely read our whitepaper for best practices and lessons learned based on real case studies and partnerships we have pursued.
Houston has a bold, long term vision and I would say Houston is one to watch going forward as a school district. I look forward to seeing more from Houston ISD in the future.
I am catching up on sharing some video interviews with you from a recent partner event. Today’s conversation is with Alvin Crawford from Schoolnet.
Schoolnet solutions take a platform approach using Microsoft technologies, primarily SharePoint Server, to build an end-to-end experience for all different user types and schools. They understand that parents, teachers, administrators and students have different needs in terms of the types of information they need to see, as well as access rights, and they create an experience that is seamless. They’ve also given a lot of thought behind the design and learned a lot from social networking and community sites so the environment is much friendlier to the audience type…if a teacher is accessing a data dashboard, they see tools and resources that are for a teacher. Schoolnet also does a good job connecting data and content together to offer students collaboration opportunities.
Alvin and I had a good conversation about trends in education…in particular how to use data dashboards to drive action and improve and inform instruction.
Let me know what you think...
Even before the Department of Education released the final rules for how to apply to the Race to the Top funds last week, schools around the United States and the world have been pushing the envelope and testing new methods for how to raise student performance with innovative new teaching practices. It’s exciting to see even the current issue of TIME Magazine call out The School of One in New York City as one of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2009.” (Read my earlier blog post on School of One for how Microsoft is partnering on the project.)
I talked to Neil Richards with HunterStone recently about trends in education and how new learning styles and form factors play into the transformation of schools. HunterStone is one of our partners and provides e-learning and IT tools for Microsoft environments. Take a look and listen to the video below and let me know what you think.
How are you bringing change to your schools and classrooms? Are stimulus funds making an impact?
As a technology vendor and industry leader, we take very seriously the responsibility of helping make the Internet safer for everyone. For schools, Microsoft supports mandatory online safety education…which safety experts say is the top way to reduce the risks children face on the Internet…and we provide resources for public officials, teachers and others. Over the past 20 years, the volume of child pornography traded online has exploded. To help combat the problem, Microsoft Research partnered with Dartmouth to develop a new technology called PhotoDNA that will help fight it. This week, Microsoft announced the donation of the PhotoDNA technology to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to assist in finding and removing images of child sexual exploitation from the Internet. PhotoDNA helps calculate the distinct characteristics…the “DNA”…of a digital image in order to match it to others, helping online service providers and others to better identify and stop the distribution of known images of child sexual exploitation online. Together, Microsoft and NCMEC hope to raise awareness about the global problem of child sexual exploitation and activate a larger movement on a solution by providing some new ways for consumers, online service providers, policymakers and others to get involved. We hope this will have a tremendous impact both in the United States and around the world. The technology is currently based on images that NCMEC has identified from their CyberTipline and their role as a clearinghouse for U.S. service providers to report such images…so while many of the images are from cases in the U.S., some may be from other countries as well. Also, we anticipate that any implementation of PhotoDNA in online services from Microsoft or other service providers would likely apply wherever those services are available around the world. You can read more about PhotoDNA here and here. The video below explains how the technology works and will be used, and more from the Dartmouth computer scientist and digital forensics expert who worked with Microsoft researchers. If you’d like to get more involved in the fight for these kids, make a donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or if you have information about a child being abused, please go to http://www.cybertipline.com/.
Sharing my blog post published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...
This week, people from around the world will gather at two education events in London – the Education World Forum (EWF) and the BETT trade show – to discuss how technology can help improve the state of education in the United Kingdom and globally. The role of technology in education has been a hot topic of late, sparked in large part by the Waiting for Superman documentary in October, the New York Times article on technology and attention spans in November and the Newsweek interview with Bill Gates about seniority-based pay.
In the midst of all this debate, I believe one thing is clear – successful economies rely on an innovative and well-prepared workforce. This requires that students are equipped with 21st century skills such as collaboration, communications, creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and citizenship. And to engage and prepare our students, we need high-quality teachers who are, themselves, adept at future-ready skills. Underlying all of that, we need to make sure that the teachers and students have access to the technology that will help each of them learn and grow.
This week at EWF and BETT, Microsoft will look at the critical issue of how 21st century skills are taught and acquired, and roll out new ways to provide access to great technology at a low cost – all so that students can be best prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. To help advance the teaching and acquisition of 21st century skills, this week we are announcing:
Microsoft has also been helping students, educators and schools get access to technology at low costs in a number of ways through ‘Shape the Future’ agreements – which have helped 42 countries bring technology access to more than 6 million students, educators and citizens – and with great technologies such as Live@edu and Windows Multipoint Server. To further improve technology access in schools, this week we are also announcing:
The tough reality is that there isn’t a magic bullet for solving the complex challenges involved in equipping students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future – but I believe that this week’s news shows we continue to make steady progress in understanding the issues involved, and providing real solutions.
If you haven’t already checked out the new Internet Explorer 9 beta…first off, I encourage you to go to http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ to explore the potential for the new web browser.
I've often talked about the potential for technology in reading, and we've seen the potential for digital reading on devices like the iPad and Kindle, and even software tools for the PC like Blio. These are great examples of creating convenient and automated views of digital reading, rich pictures, note-taking, etc…but in many ways both the presentation of the information and the experience is not transformational. It provides an online or a technology-based translation of an analog form.
I believe this a great trend and certainly long overdue, but in many ways it's not the future of digital reading. I think the future of digital reading will be much more reflective on the identity of the person reading. It will be much more multimodal in terms of it will include input from others, ability to aggregate a whole host of information sources, as well as authorship, provide experiential and learning activities…and it will learn as you go in terms of it will take feedback and modify text, etc..
Increasingly, reading environments won't be delivered in static electronic book forms, but online experiences that really take advantage of the Web. We're starting to see some of this trend with the IE9 beta, which demonstrates the potential for HTML5 to really create new and innovative Web experiences. One of the things about IE9 is that it creates the ability to run websites and experiences that you visit in an app-like form…so you don't feel like you're in a Web page, you feel like you're in an application.
I think the Associated Press website on IE9 with HTML5 is the coolest of the sites. You can check out their AP News Lab “Timeline Reader” here and see the screen shot on the right. It’s a good example of making content come alive with a very rich navigation experience, multimode coming in, and the ability to drill down and get visualization experiences. Scientific American has built a really good interactive learning environment on the human brain. Another great example is Naver, which is a digital news archive (picture bottom left) for a number of different newspapers in Korea…it is interesting to navigate and select different stories from different papers to put in a scrapbook to read later…all powerful examples of the potential of HTML5.
I think HTML5 represents the future of the way in which publishers will build cross-platform devices, so as opposed to building content or books specific for one device…it also puts the future of the Web back into view. There has been lots of discussion around whether the Web is dead. The answer is I think far from it. The Web is evolving to become much broader and with the ability to create much more rich experiences. So, as opposed to writing applications for specific platforms, folks can use standard HTML5 based tools to build experiences that will run on other browsers.
I'm excited about what the future holds…and if these examples are indication of what's to come, it will become a huge platform for publishers, content providers, and companies to build quality and engaging education experiences that will support a range of technology devices.
What do you think?
During my travels, I’m often asked for ideas of great places online for teachers to share best practices, learn from peers and get help. There are many wonderful resources on the web for sure, and we’ve worked hard to make the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network (ITN) a destination place for sharing lesson plans, ideas and inspiration. It’s a place where teachers can give others a peek into their classroom, seek advice on challenges their facing and show off a great new project.
The US ITN network is part of a worldwide effort to connect teachers and uncover best-of-breed teaching, technology and content best practices. ITN features three types of professional learning resources: Articles of Interest, Guides and Materials, and Research Papers. There are Communities where educators can discuss similar topics of interest, create virtual project teams, participate in the peer review of content, and much more. Additionally, one of the coolest new resources is the Virtual Classroom Tours, which allow you to experience and replicate the classroom successes of other teachers.
If you’re already a part of the network…check out the new changes and share feedback. If you’re not familiar with ITN…now’s a great time to join as the version of the network just went live (http://us.itn.partnersinlearning.com).
Sharing my blog post on accessibility published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...
Thirty-five years ago this week, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was signed into law, and the U.S. government committed to “ensuring that children with disabilities have opportunities to develop their talents, share their gifts and contribute to their communities.” For more than 20 years, Microsoft has focused on making computers easier to use for individuals disabilities. During that time, we’ve seen many students with disabilities integrated into general classrooms and technology has become an essential part of learning for students of all abilities. Today, educators are trying new ways of integrating technology into the classroom and looking for ways to help students of all learning styles and abilities. Microsoft’s education mission is to help students and educators throughout the world realize their full potential. We recognize that nearly every classroom has a student who has difficulty seeing the board, concentrating on their homework, or expressing their ideas. Those are some of the reasons that Microsoft builds accessibility features into our products, ensuring that all students have access to the best learning available and that can be enhanced through technology. I have long believed in the power of technology to make a profound impact in education and I’ve been fortunate enough to see some amazing examples around the world where teachers are truly making magic happen for their students. The examples that often most standout and illustrate the transformative potential of technology are those that use accessibility technology integration to empower and enrich the world of students that otherwise might have had an extremely difficult time communicating, collaborating or socializing with their peers. Early in my career at Microsoft I supported work in hospitals and schools and saw the potential of this work first hand and it has long fueled my passion and recognition of this importance of this work. All students benefit from being able to personalize the PC to suit their own learning styles and special needs. And, all students want to fit in and use the same technology their peers use. Today’s PCs have accessibility features built in that enable students to use technology to enhance their learning but still fit in with their peers. At Microsoft we published Accessibility: A Guide for Educators, which explains how students with disabilities can adjust the PC to enhance or enable learning. For those new to accessibility and working with a student with a disability, it can seem overwhelming. The guide explains types of disabilities and shows how to use the accessibility features in Microsoft Windows or how to find the right specialty assistive technology for a student with special needs. Consider a student who has a great story idea but struggles to type – that student can tell their short story and have it captured in text using Speech Recognition. Or, a student who struggles to see their PC can magnify the screen with Magnifier or zoom in on a Web page when working on a research project. I’m inspired when I see educators throughout the world using technology in innovative ways to enhance learning for students with disabilities. For example, a school in Thailand for students who are deaf is using a technology called Mouse Mischief, which lets the teacher share files with a group of students who each have their own personalized computing account. The students can interact with the presentation the teacher is showing, share files with one another, and collaborate in a whole new way. We are also seeing students with learning impairments and dyslexia who have found that OneNote helps them stay organized, take audio and text notes and check their spelling and grammar. At Microsoft we understand our role and responsibility in helping ensure students of all abilities have equal access to learning. Too few people know how to use the accessibility features on their Windows PCs. In the spirit of the anniversary of the IDEA, I encourage you to help a student or educator you know by sharing information about accessibility. After all, every classroom has students of different abilities who can benefit from personalizing their PC to making it easier to see, hear, and learn.
As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, $7.2 billion dollars is being allocated to expand broadband Internet access across the U.S. The dream is to make sure every home has a broadband connection, but even the Federal Communications Commission admits the $7 billion is not enough to wire everyone. Microsoft believes connecting schools, libraries and hospitals first will generate the quickest, most impactful and most equitable distribution of social benefits. Our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, called on the FCC to take this direction. Marc Berejka, Senior Director of Technology Policy and Strategy, reinforced our company’s position in a blog post here.
The fuel for our country’s economic recovery will be provided by innovation…and our future, in many respects, is in the hands (and minds) of students in our classrooms, universities and libraries. Prioritizing broadband for schools and libraries will connect to the heart of our communities and help shift expectations and aspiration of the impact technology can have on reaching its potential for improving and enriching learning.
While the majority of schools have basic Internet access, it’s often limited, slow and not capable of handling the technology applications our administrators and educators need to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century workplace and life. As we continue to expand use of digital learning environments to deliver personal and adaptive experiences for our students, the need to ensure rich connectivity in and out of the classroom becomes paramount. Digital natives have an expectation of an “always on” and “always connected” environment…and our commitment to deliver needs to address not only access everywhere…but access for ALL.
Digital curriculum, virtual classrooms, etc., will create opportunities for rich collaboration and enable our teachers to serve the needs of individual students. These experiences and opportunities will be created by careful rigor, planning and holistic thinking….but supported by integrated and flexible technology and access to broadband.
As we embrace the Federal stimulus as a source of confidence and optimism…the need to start by resourcing our schools and libraries…to support our country’s greatest resource…our children…becomes clear. This SETDA report provides more information on the state of broadband in our schools, key recommendations, and district, community and state models for broadband implementation.
Earlier this month, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates and spent time in Dubai and Sharjah. I was impressed with the region’s beauty and magnificent architecture. With regards to education, the emirates are looking at worldwide examples from the U.S. to Victoria, Australia where they are building six model schools in order to push the envelope with regards to learning styles, assessment, and using technology.
I found an overall general appreciation for the arts. When I met the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, he stressed the importance of building community and really using education as a cornerstone for not only creating arts, but as a way to build a connection to the community and the culture in the area. And, certainly, there's a focus on employability and getting students prepared for careers like engineering and medicine, etc., but I think education is recognized as a differentiator for quality of life.
I think it’s an important concept because the folks I met with referred to education as sort of a foundation of the arts…that if you don't have a good education system, you don't really have a good arts environment or culture that's created from it. So it becomes a foundation for creating culture as well as quality of life for the citizens.
I saw the University of Sharjah and had the opportunity to go through the student union at the American University of Sharjah and sit in a computer lab. Like many other institutions I've visited…students are excited and there's a dynamic atmosphere with students huddling around computers, getting access to the Internet, sharing, squeezing each other off the printers, etc. I think there is huge opportunity here for creating a one-to-one access program for students, and really think about some of the employability tools and ways to create access through programs like DreamSpark and IT Academy, which the American University of Sharjah is using already. They’ve done a great job focusing on teaching and learning, now they are recognizing they need to make the full picture work more efficiently and effectively as well across their very large campuses.
In the picture below from left to right: Dr. Amr Abdel-Hamid, Special Advisor to the Ruler of Sharjah for Higher Education; the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi; Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Worldwide Education; Azza El Shinnawy, Microsoft Education Lead for the Gulf.
Earlier this year, the United States Congress voted to celebrate Computer Science Education Week to promote computer science education in the US. This week (6-12 December) is the inaugural year and schools and teachers can find a lot of great resources at the official CSEdWeek web site here: http://www.csedweek.org/. Microsoft is a proud sponsor and to help celebrate we’ve compiled a rich set of information, videos and links for educators and students, featuring software, opportunities and success stories here: http://research.microsoft.com/csew/.
With the current tough economic climate, the importance of education is taking front stage around the world. It has become part of the global agenda, not only because of the need to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, but the need to encourage optimism in countries by creating opportunities for jobs and re-skilling of workers to enable innovation and new businesses in the countries. So the need for quality education has never been more important…and the opportunities for using technology to enhance learning and to enable opportunities for personalized learning experiences has never been greater. An interesting op-ed in the Huffington Post this morning from our own Rick Rashid, Marie Klawe and others about how kids need to know how to do more than simply turn on a computer and play video games, how curriculum needs to change, and how we can share our best practices and progress.
It’s timely and appropriate that we celebrate National Computer Science Education Week this week to showcase the value of technology and creating job opportunities with technology. This is an area Microsoft believes deeply in. And programs like DreamSpark, Students 2 Business and the Imagine Cup are all great examples of venues Microsoft provides to enable students to get access to curriculum, technology and support to explore careers and IT. For educators, our Expressions Web site here is a good resource for tutorials and lesson plans for web design.
A recent offering Microsoft is really proud of is BizSpark which enables students, and really anybody, to start and launch businesses using Microsoft technology provided at no cost 3 years. This has created huge opportunity to excite new entrepreneurs. Increasingly technology is a component of every business so we’ve seen this as an acceleration path for the beginnings of new businesses and that will help revitalize the economies around the world.
What more can we be doing to excite kids about careers and learning more about computer science? What support can we lend to teachers, administrators and schools?
I’m incredibly thankful for the work I get to do and humbled by the importance of our company's focus in education. I am also proud of the impact Microsoft is making. Most notably I’m proud of the commitment of our people...employees, who on their personal time, are making a huge difference.
This story here is a great example of the compassion of Microsoft employees to the issues in education...and the need for focus on supporting girls specifically. Margo Day is the West regional vice president of U.S. Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners at Microsoft. During a trip last fall to Kenya, she spent some time doing volunteer work with World Vision and was greatly moved and inspired to do something after visiting a primary school and rescue center for girls who had fled their homes to avoid the traditional practice of female genital mutilation.
The work Margo Day has done in Kenya is a shining example of the impact that a group of individuals can make. It also shines light on the need to push for gender equality and education opportunities for all. Every child deserves access to a great education and we need to work locally and globally to ensure inequalities are fought against, the oppression of low expectation is lifted, and every student is empowered to reach their potential.
I’ve been on the road the majority of this month for personal and business travel. I’m in Russia right now, but want to catch you up on my experiences in Puerto Rico.
The best part about my Puerto Rico visit was the amount of student and teacher interaction, as that is something I enjoy the most. During my visit, Microsoft announced an Education Alliance Agreement with the Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) in San Juan focusing on bringing a culture of innovation to the campus and providing the academic community with the latest software and technology skills. In addition to the University joining the Microsoft IT Academy Program, we celebrated the opening of the Microsoft Mobile Development Laboratory (photos below).
Mobile devices have certainly changed lifestyles around the world and new ways to use technology. Exploring and developing mobile applications is a huge opportunity for students who are looking at their careers and future employability. In conjunction with the Imagine Cup, students have been developing mobile applications to compete in the Latin America finals for a chance to go onto Poland…and they have some very different and creative ideas. One application was developed for ride sharing to help with not only lower environmental impact on carbon emissions and autos, but also to help students have outlets for safe driving, saving money, etc. The application is connected to GPS and mobile phones, so students can alert each other when they need a ride and create a social community.
The other mobile project I saw was called “Justice.” It capitalizes on the fact that most citizens have access to a cell phone and a camera…and if you can imagine turning all those cell phones and all those users into eyes and ears for a law enforcement official or an environmental protection official or a municipal government to identify when there is a traffic safety issue or a street lamp that needs repaired…you can put citizens on the alert so they can share and post alerts and track the status.
The students’ professor says the students are so excited about this mobile lab that they don’t want to go home, they want to work through the night because they are so motivated about the work they are doing and the opportunity to compete on the global stage…it’s brought a lot of energy to the learning experience for the students.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the Senate, and talk about ways in which the government is addressing change in education in Puerto Rico. It's great to see them thinking very holistically about embracing and approving resources for teachers, teacher training, and the way in which teachers are valued in Puerto Rico. They're thinking about things like digital access for all citizens and students.
And just like every government, they're thinking about the ways in which you can use data to impact learning outcomes and success rates. It’s great to see Puerto Rico open to taking lessons learned from the U.S. and other parts of the world and really thinking about very important issues.
I also meet with the Department of Education and visited a high school…I’ll share more on that in my next post.
I was excited to be able to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum last week in Redmond where 100 educators from 25 states showcased their innovative classroom projects to vie for a spot to compete at the Partners in Learning Global Forum later this year. The event is not just a competition, but a celebration of teachers who are making a difference in their local communities and helping their students prepare and expect more for their future. It’s also a great professional development opportunity as educators receive not only some technology training, but the opportunity to network, learn from and collaborate with like-minded peers who inspire others to scale change in education.
I was impressed with all of the U.S. projects I was able to see. It was great to see classroom projects tackling real-world problems like oil spills, unemployment, diabetes, disaster response, wildlife and more that help students build 21st century skills they’ll need for the workplace. The examples of creative uses of technology in learning represented the Pre-K–12 spectrum and included great ideas for blended learning, student video game design, professional development, flipped classrooms with students teaching their peers, and improving communications skills for those with autism and other special learning needs.
Check out the video below and my interviews with three teachers. Michael Braun teaches at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, and he’s using Touch Develop to get kids interested in computer science by teaching them how to develop mobile phone apps. You can learn more about his learning activity on the Partners in Learning Network here. Vince Interrante from Mineola Middle School (New York) and Robyn Hrivnatz from Lamar CISD (Texas) teamed up on a rocket bottle project that spanned more than 225 students at five schools on three continents! You can learn how they made this happen here.
The U.S. team will be sending 16 finalists to the Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic on November 28-December 1. The 9th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of local and regional events that reach nearly 200,000 participants from over 115 countries. This year’s forum will gather 500 participants, including the most innovative global educators, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials.
For updates on the event and how to participate in the future, follow our #pilgf Twitter hash tag and our Facebook page.
Help celebrate World Teachers’ Day…there is still time left in the day to express your appreciation or admiration and give thanks to a teacher. UNESCO designated October 5th annually as World Teachers' Day to mark the anniversary of the 1966 signing of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers which addresses teacher policies, rights and responsibilities.
Whether you are a student, a parent, an administrator or a community member, you probably have reason to be grateful for a teacher that has impacted your life. When I think about the biggest influences in my life, teachers are the first to come to mind. Teachers inspire us to become life-long learners and challenge us to solve tough problems. They provide us with guidance when we need help and enable us to achieve our goals.
There are 59 million teachers providing instruction to 1.4 billion students around the world. Here at Microsoft, we work hard to listen to the needs and understand the challenges educators and schools face, and hope that we can provide technology, training and support to best assist you in shaping the future of our society. Technology is becoming an increasingly central tool to help educators create exciting class projects, personalize learning scenarios, and share best practices and lesson plans with peers around the world. That is why we work diligently every day to create solutions to empower teachers and faculty to reach their students in effective and engaging ways. We are committed to helping advance the teaching profession in the 21st century. Let us know what we can do to make you successful…and in the meantime, thank you!
My video interviews with some of the U.S. Imagine Cup winners are now posted (watch below!). The three brothers from Team MultiPoint Web talk about their winning project designed to let multiple students simultaneously use the same computer to learn, and why they are so excited to head to the World Finals in Egypt in July. Team Special Child shares details about their project created to provide assistance and organization to the adoption process. And Team Mango Bunnies shares their experience being the only all-girls team at Imagine Cup and the importance of getting young women and girls interested in technology.
Reflecting back, it was amazing to see these technology solutions were designed not by CEOs or scientists, but by high school and college students across the US. Their creativity and innovation speaks volumes about the promise of technology to really make a difference in peoples’ lives in the way we think, work, and communicate. This is just a representation of the potential and opportunity found in our classrooms and schools – a potential that if nurtured can help build a better world and sustain our future prosperity.
If you too are inspired by the Imagine Cup, a great way to begin to get your students on track to compete in future events is to expose them to the FREE tools Microsoft provides to high school and college students via DreamSpark. Click here for an informative discussion on the DreamSpark offering by Microsoft’s Tammara Edgin.
One of the most exciting trends happening in education today is the evolution of digital publishing. Publishers around the world are starting to embrace not only new reading modalities but new form factors and devices to create both interactive and enriching experiences for students and educators.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is on the forefront of this and is working towards creating an engaging opportunity for educators and students to leverage content in exciting new ways.
Tony Clancy, Vice President of Technology Strategy and Architecture at HMH, and I had a great conversation about the potential, and the work that HMH is working on to deliver this in the coming years.
I was excited to go to Russia recently and learn more about the education system. There are plenty of places around the world where technology accessibility or access to education and reform are meeting in the middle...places where students and teachers are starting to get more and more access to technology…and it's becoming much more common to support education on the periphery, and the school system is also starting to recognize the need for broader reform. And I think those two trends are converging to create lots of potential and opportunity in Russia.
Russia has a long way to go with regards to reforming the education system around some of the core themes that we see around the world…use of data more aggressively, connection to employability and workforce readiness skills, use of electronic content and curriculum. Certainly there's lots of opportunity there. Here's a recent interview with the president of Microsoft Russia for a view on how we see the potential for IT in the country.
Ironically, Russia in the early '60s was one of the first countries to really integrate technology into the curriculum, particularly in the science and mathematics area. A number of early Russian professors were some of the first to experiment with providing students access to computing power as one example. But the reality is that there has been a lull over the last several years, and due to the economic struggles with Russia in the early '90s there has been an opportunity now to revamp and refresh the school system. Every school in Russia has some level of Internet access, but the problem is that most teachers haven’t been trained in ICT, so there’s some skepticism about the effectiveness of ICT in education. There's a spirit of urgency I sensed from the educators and leaders I talked with…they recognize there is lots of work to do, but really a hope for the potential.
I think Russia is a place where culture and history provide some very obvious clues to what's going on and we see that in the education system. You can actually see it in the traffic. Moscow is a city with significant traffic problems, and part of the problem is due to a growing population and an infrastructure that needs modernization. But part of the reality stems from a cultural preference that individuals have to own their own car and drive their car. And it was not long ago where the privilege of owning a car was not something that everyone had a right to. So, there's a cultural significance rooted in why there is so much traffic in Moscow, and I think that's also connected to some of the history with regards to the education system. But that is changing, and we have some aggressive educators who are thinking about differently, and making tremendous things possible.
I saw a good indication of this optimism during my trip to a high school in the outskirts of Moscow. Yefim Ratchevski is the director of education at school #548 which won the best school in Russia two years ago. Yefim is a true innovator in technology and he is open to modern techniques and technologies to improve student learning outcomes and innovative teaching practices. He's thinking differently about how the school can use data to enhance the learning environment. He's also really starting to recognize the need for blended learning environments in Russia, so creating much more interactive classrooms, thinking about ways in which you can use online courses to provide more choice and flexibility for students, and the reality that the school day is changing.
The more and more I travel around the world and see institutions trying to address challenges…whether it's lack of teachers or courseware or flexibility with regards to physical space, or embracing opportunities to provide a more rich and active curriculum…I think the limits we see in education that will most change over the next five years is this dependency on time and place, where education is rooted in sequential offerings in a specific time that happens in a specific location.
I think in the future blended learning models, much more dynamic curriculum engagement, students who are driving their own learning, will become more commonplace, and schools will optimize around that environment, and certainly Yefim is working to do that in school #548 in Russia. They have dynamic curriculum environments and they are usually Microsoft MultiPoint Server to create not only more access to technology within computer labs, but they're also creating collaborative workspaces for students to engage socially.
With leaders like Yefim, I think Russia is on a good trajectory. They will be able to take a lot of the lessons learned around the world and apply them in a fresh way into the Russian environment, and they have obviously willingness and optimism around the potential for technology to change.
I had the pleasure of meeting recently with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, around exploring options to invest in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an emerging country with a very young labor force…and like many countries around the world, looking to explore opportunities for emerging technologies and how technology’s role can drive impact in education as part of their Digital Bangladesh initiative. It’s exciting to see hope for a nation that’s growing with an economy that’s being built on driving innovation and new industries and rooted in the foundation of education transformation.
There are more than a 150 million people in Bangladesh, the 7th largest population, which I was surprised by. The average age of the labor force is 23-years old, which is one of the youngest workforces in the world. They are well positioned with regards to economic expansion as noted by its listing as one of the “Next Eleven” potential largest economies of the 21st century.
Bangladesh has a female Prime Minister and a progressive government which has wide support, and they’ve been very good about working with the U.S. and building relationships with companies and the administration. With the Digital Bangladesh initiative, the Prime Minister is working to improve core infrastructure in the country like roads and transportation, but also recognizes the value in education. Like a lot of countries, they’re exploring individual technology devices for each student, looking for opportunities to train people in new skills, and extend digital content. There are some interesting write-ups here and here on how the country is trying to meet the challenge.
I am inspired to explore future partnerships with Bangladesh and help in their efforts to modernize and transform education, and help students in the country realize their potential.
Some level of technology skills is required in almost every profession and job these days. A recent IDC report commissioned by Microsoft showed that global spending on IT will create 5.8 million new jobs by 2013…so what are we doing to make sure our students are prepared?
Today, we announced the donation of more than $4 million worth of Microsoft software to high schools in the State of Illinois to help students build technology skills and prepare for the workforce or college. To spur creativity, we are partnering with the Illinois State Board of Education to encourage kids to compete in a Web design contest called “bliink” to create a Web site that drives them to engage in their communities to protect the local environment.
Illinois, like many other states and countries, has recognized the value in investing in education to connect learning to workforce needs that will drive innovation, new industries and optimism for economic recovery. This challenge is part of Illinois’ Innovation Talent education program, a pilot project designed to connect schools with industry, government and community partners. They are pushing students to develop their analytical abilities by working on interdisciplinary teams to solve real-world problems using leading-edge information technology tools.
The software donation is made possible through our Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDNAA) program. With a complimentary subscription to MSDNAA, accredited high schools get licenses to use Expression Web and Visual Studio 2008 software. High school teachers and administrators can request a free subscription by emailing us: firstname.lastname@example.org. We also offer free tutorials and curriculum units that have been designed by teachers and tested by students in more than 350 high schools. The lessons have been mapped to national standards and include project-based learning experiences for students and assessment tools for teachers.
In the past 16 months, more than 1 million U.S. high school students have benefitted from Microsoft’s MSDNAA donations. You can see some of the students’ outstanding work here. We are really encouraged by the great feedback we are hearing about this program -- ”more students are talking about working in engineering or technology after high school”…”the software really got me interested in technology, and interested in taking a more difficult technical course.” And that’s really the goal here…providing kids the foundation, the tools they need to imagine a new future, to connect to real opportunities in the workplace and to realize the power of technology.
As schools and teachers continue to use digital assets for collaboration, homework assignments, and more, learning management systems and tools such as Moodle have grown in popularity in classrooms.
ELEARNINGFORCE manages to take many of the same features and tools requested by customers and built a solution around Microsoft SharePoint as a toolset. This not only provides greater range of functionality and power but overall cost savings as it relates to administrative costs, management, etc.
Kelvin Hicks and I had an opportunity to talk about his thoughts on some of the broader trends as it relates to technology and education, and the growing role collaboration is having on the education process in classrooms and virtually. Take a listen…
No doubt you have seen the hype today surrounding the worldwide Windows 7 launch and availability to consumers. I’ve enjoyed reading the reviews from the tech pundits and our customers. Beyond the whiz-bang features that will get your students and faculty excited about using their computers for day-to-day tasks like Snap, Shake and Windows Touch…there are three new features I think are most relevant for the IT side of the house that will help make everyone more productive…BranchCache, BitLocker To Go, and Windows XP Mode. I introduced some of these features in an earlier blog post.
Today, I’ll focus on BranchCache because I think this is a huge feature that could have big impact. So imagine this scenario – when you download a video to your laptop from YouTube or a document from the district office -- in a traditional environment in a school, you download the file, I download the file, everyone downloads it. You are making a server request to YouTube or the district’s intranet site, and it may take 20 minutes or 10 seconds to download the video or file depending on what your bandwidth is.
The way Windows 7 works is if we are on the same network inside a school, you download the video, it is cached on your machine…then when the next person goes to download the same file, it opens up instantly because it’s been cached on your machine already. For a BranchCache overview, videos, demos and deployment information, check out this site.
With Windows 7, we have worked hard to improve the operating system’s security, reliability and performance while improving PC management and introducing compelling new experiences for the classroom and making it easier to connect with all the devices people use today. For a complete product overview, go here, check out our monthly education newsletter here, and read my blog post here that includes a customer case study.
Be sure to sign up for our own virtual launch event dedicated to education where you can learn more about the Windows 7 benefits for schools and hear from K12 and university IT professionals that are deploying Windows 7.
I know I shared information about the CareerForward resource last week...but given the incredible interest in this course, I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about the offering. The attached video provides an excellent overview of the course...with information on content, delivery models and even a discussion on global competitiveness from Yong Zhao, Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University. I hope you find the video helpful and I'm eager to hear feedback from those of you that roll out the course to your students/institution. Click here for CareerForward video.
I also invite you to join an On Demand Webcast on CareerForward presented by Microsoft's Allyson Knox, Jamey Fitzpatrick, President of Michigan Virtual University and Matinga Ragatz, Global Studies, World History Teacher.
This webcast is part of our weekly Teacher Tech Tuesday Webcast series...a great series featuring a range of tools and technologies that can help save time and improve effectiveness. Enjoy.
I had the pleasure of visiting Mexico recently and had the opportunity to speak with institutions, educators, principals and other leaders about the potential for education to revitalize local economies. Like many countries, Mexico is excited about technology’s role in transforming learning, creating new options for teachers and students, and forming a much tighter connection to improve the knowledge economy inside the country. Education leaders here recognize technology’s role as a way to provide new content, new resources, and a vehicle for students to grow new skills to prepare for new jobs and new industries in Mexico.
I was very happy to see the level of passion and enthusiasm from the institutions about technology. My trip coincided with Windows 7 consumer availability, so I had the chance to witness launch activities. I also had the chance to participate in the signing of a Microsoft Education Alliance Agreement with Universidad ICEL to promote academic achievement through the latest technology tools (see picture to the bottom left). If you read Spanish, check out the news coverage here and here.
The Microsoft education team in Mexico is doing a great job partnering with the country to help students take advantage of Microsoft programs like Imagine Cup, Students to Business, DreamSpark and BizSpark. I’m inspired about the country’s optimism and what we might be able to do together in the future. There’s a very practical recognition that if students leverage Microsoft tools to connect to resources they need to prepare for the future, it will help them connect to jobs.
One of the things that are becoming clearer to me is that fundamental principles really translate across countries. Teachers really need to think more holistically about education by focusing on the fundamentals…how do they help students learn, how can they create personal learning opportunities, and how can they use technology as a catalyst. The teachers I met in Mexico share a belief in technology’s role, but certainly see the challenges that are apparent around the world…the need for training, the need to minimize distraction from core content, and the need to connect assessments to students.
During my trip, I also had the opportunity to meet with leaders at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the largest university in Latin America, and Tecnológico de Monterrey. I was excited to see the wide range of resources (like virtual learning models) and connections to research and to industry at both universities. I walked through the health research lab at Tecnológico de Monterrey which was especially fascinating because they had students doing the gene splicing to help create the H1N1 vaccine for Mexico.
One of the highlights of the visit…in addition to the tremendous hospitality I received…was not just the real connection the institutions have with economic revitalization…but also the sense of responsibility the schools take on. The country and its education system are committed to helping its citizens, specifically, helping poor families get access to resources they need, facilitating job connections at the community centers, and providing opportunities to those who might not otherwise be able to afford the chance…this goes beyond any specific education agenda or initiative.
When I spoke to about 250 secondary school principals in Mexico, it was the first time I had done a presentation with a translator. My jokes are usually hit or miss, but it was hard to know which jokes were landing and making an impact because of the delay with the translation…people would always laugh a few seconds later. My travels take me to Brazil this week for the Innovative Education Forum, which you will hear more about soon…I wonder if my jokes will be funnier in Portuguese?
I’m not afraid to admit that I get truly excited about technology of all shapes and sizes. The joy comes from experiencing cool design, life-changing functionality, and pure fun…but perhaps the most meaningful and powerful reactions are to technologies that fundamentally open up our world and connect people to information and other people like never before. Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is an excellent example of the type of tool I get incredibly passionate about, and it’s something I routinely visit for inspiration. For those unfamiliar, I urge you to stop reading and download the tool right now…
The WorldWide Telescope is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope. It brings together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes in the world for seamless exploration of the universe. Whether you download the application (providing online and offline access) or just use the web client, the WWT provides a wealth of options and resources designed to inform, illustrate and inspire.
The WorldWide Telescope is supported by a breadth of satellite imagery, contributions from globally respected astronomers and even guided tours created by seven-year-old explorers. Through a recent partnership between Microsoft and NASA, planetary images and data...including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon...will be explorable on the WorldWide Telescope.
Whether you use the tool in a lesson plan, leverage the guided tour capability for visual presentations or just explore the universe, I’m confident you’ll be rewarded and impacted by the journey.
Links:Microsoft Research feature story:http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/worldwidetelescope.aspx
Webcast (Teacher Tech Tuesday) -- presented by the creator/inventor, Curtis Wong: http://www.educationwebcasts.com/Webcast.aspx?i=3692
Free posters for your classroom:http://www.microsoft.com/education/teachers/posters.aspx
Worldwide Telescope Academic Development Kit:http://blogs.msdn.com/dan_fay/archive/2009/01/21/worldwide-telescope-academic-development-kit-release-microsoft-research.aspx